Ways to Use Rhubarb

Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote
Rhubarb Ice Pops
Rhubarb Muffins
Rhubarb and Strawberry Shortcakes with Gingered Crème Fraîche

In temperate climates, rhubarb is one of the first food plants to be ready for harvest, usually in mid- to late spring, making it one of the first colorful treats to show up in farmers markets. It is perhaps best known as a pie filling. But, perhaps because I lack the patience to construct and bake pies except on special occasions, my favorite, simple use of rhubarb is to chop it up into half-inch pieces, mix in some chopped apples and/or sliced strawberries, and cook it with some sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar, for 15 or 20 minutes until the rhubarb softens. You can serve it, hot or cold, over ice cream, on bread or as accompaniment for meat dishes. The recipe is the first one in the list below.

rhubarb bunch

rhubarb from the farmers market in Charlottesville, Virginia, May 15, 2010

Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote [top]

3 cups diced rhubarb
3 cups diced strawberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring to a simmer and lower heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 or 20 minutes until rhubarb softens, stirring from time to time.

Rhubarb Ice Pops [top]

1 pound rhubarb
4 ounces water, plus more to cover rhubarb
4 ounces cane sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 ½ ounces heavy cream
10 three-ounce ice pop molds

For the rhubarb:
1. Wash and chop the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Place rhubarb in wide bottomed, nonreactive pot, and add approximately 1 inch of water, or enough to cover rhubarb.

2. Cover the pot, and cook over medium heat until the rhubarb breaks down into a lumpy purée, about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the purée from its juice, and preserve both.

For the simple syrup:
1. In a small pot, combine 4 ounces of water with the cane sugar. Add the cinnamon stick. Gently heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from burner, discard the cinnamon stick, and let syrup cool.

For the ice pops:
1. In a pitcher, combine the rhubarb purée and the simple syrup. Adjust the sweetness — keeping in mind that some sweetness will dissipate up on freezing — by adding some of the reserved rhubarb juice. (Save remaining juice for another use.)

2. Blend in cream. Pour mixture into ice pop molds, and freeze overnight.

Source: Chelsea Market People’s Pops, as adapted by New York Magazine

Rhubarb Muffins [top]

2 ½ cups flour
2/3 cups brown sugar, packed
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cups milk
¼ cups oil or melted margarine
½ tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk, oil, vanilla and egg. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in rhubarb.

3. Divide batter between muffin cups. Sprinkle tops liberally with sugar, if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until light golden brown.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Shortcakes [top]

(Makes 9 small square shortcakes or 8 small round shortcakes)

Vanilla Shortcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2-inch section of a vanilla bean
1 to 1 ½ cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons melted butter

1 pound rhubarb, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 1 quart)
¾ to 1 cup sugar, depending upon desired sweetness
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and halved (about 1 ½ ounces)
2 cardamom pods
2 cups fresh strawberries, cut into ½-inch thick slices
Whipped cream, for topping

For the shortcakes:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Slit the vanilla bean and, using a sharp paring knife, scrape the seeds into flour mixture. Stir the flour mixture to distribute the vanilla seeds.

2. Starting with 1 cup of the cream, mix the cream into flour with a large wooden spoon or silicone spatula. Add additional cream as necessary to take up all of the dry ingredients into a firm ball of dough with no dry spots; it should not be sticky.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 20 times, until the dough becomes smooth, but not shiny, and firm but pliable. Pat the dough into a square approximately 9 x 9 inches. Cut the dough into nine 3-inch squares. Alternatively, use a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cutting circles as close as possible to one another and folding the scrap dough under the main dough.

4. Brush each shortcake on both sides with a light coating of melted butter and place on an un-greased baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until puffed and light golden, about 15 minutes.

5. Place the shortcakes on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the rhubarb:
1. Toss the rhubarb, sugar, ginger, and cardamom pods in a glass container. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Turn the mixture once or twice to evenly distribute the sugar.

2. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium saucepan. Gently pour the rhubarb mixture through the sieve into the saucepan. Remove sieve with the rhubarb and place over a bowl. Remove and discard the ginger and cardamom.

3. Bring the liquid and sugar in the saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring gently, until all of the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the rhubarb to the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb softens, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Add the strawberries and cook until the strawberries are just heated through but still firm, about 2 minutes. Tease shortcakes apart with a fork. Divide rhubarb and strawberry mixture between the shortcakes (about ½ cup per serving) and finish each shortcake with a small dollop of whipped cream.

Source: Adapted from Seasons in the Wine Country, by Catherine Conniff

odebookRhubarb Renaissance
By Kim Ode